Scotland's 20p bottle return scheme is a debacle waiting to happen - Brian Wilson

I was told recently by someone who knew: “If you think the ferries are a debacle, just wait for the Deposit Return Scheme”. That prospect looms large for Scottish businesses and – if they knew it – consumers.

The DRS scheme will offer a 20p incentive to return single use plastic, tin and glass drinks containers for recycling. Great in principle; fraught in practice.

Take one example. Smuggling is axiomatic if you create borders and cargoes can be mundane. I know of one Irish business empire built on mass movement of eggs across the border.

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In plain sight, the Scottish Government is creating the same trade in glass bottles (excluded from English and Welsh schemes) and in all containers as long as we have a DRS and they don’t.

As things stand, anyone turning up in the Borders with a skip of bottles and Coke cans could claim their 20 pences – a lot more than the egg differential. This is one of many anomalies created by a Scotland-only rather than GB-wide approach.

In the halcyon days of “threepence back on the bottle”, shopkeepers would chase the offending urchin who “returned” one not bought there. With this legislation, every retailer, large and small, will be obliged to take as many as are dumped upon it. They are horrified.

Implications for on-line trade are mind-boggling. Costs of installing infrastructure are “eye-watering”. If John Swinney wants money for the NHS, this is one misadventure that could usefully be put on hold until they get it right.